Tuesday, October 25, 2022
Ninth Circuit to rehear Lee v. Fisher, Just When I Finally Write About It
On Sunday, I posted a new paper to SSRN, forthcoming in the Wake Forest Law Review. It's called Inside Out (or, One State to Rule them All): New Challenges to the Internal Affairs Doctrine, and it covers a lot of territory I've touched on in blog posts, namely, litigation-limiting bylaws, the Salzberg decision, California's board diversity law, and issues regarding the internal affairs doctrine and LLCs. Here is the abstract:
The internal affairs doctrine provides that the law of the organizing state will apply to matters pertaining to a business entity’s internal governance, regardless of whether the entity has substantive ties to that jurisdiction. The internal affairs doctrine stands apart from other choice of law rules, which usually favor the jurisdiction with the greatest relationship to the dispute and limit parties’ ability to select another jurisdiction’s law. The doctrine is purportedly justified by business entities’ unique need for a single set of rules to apply to governance matters, and by the efficiency gains that flow from allowing investors and managers to select the law that will govern their relationship.
The contours of the internal affairs doctrine have never been defined with precision, but several recent developments have placed new pressures on the doctrine’s boundaries. These include: (1) states’ attempts to regulate the governance structures of businesses that operate within their borders in order to benefit non-investor constituencies, such as diversity requirements for corporate boards; (2) the growing prevalence of LLCs, which – because of their flexible, contractual structure – blur the lines between investment relationships and employment relationships; (3) the increasing use of shareholder agreements, which are governed by contractual rules, and not infrequently the rules of a jurisdiction other than the one in which the business entity is organized; and (4) jurisprudence permitting the charters and bylaws of Delaware corporations to include provisions that govern litigation based on non-Delaware law.
This Essay explores modern challenges to the coherence of the internal affairs doctrine, and recommends alternatives.
Of course, one of the cases I tackle in the paper is Lee v. Fisher, which I blogged about when the district court and appellate decisions issued. Briefly, the district court enforced Gap's forum selection bylaw that purported to move a Section 14(a) derivative claim to Delaware Chancery, which had no jurisdiction to hear it; on appeal, the Ninth Circuit affirmed.
Well, obviously reacting to the persuasive case I made in my paper, twenty-four hours after I posted, the Ninth Circuit vacated its Lee v. Fisher decision, and agreed to rehear the matter en banc. I've updated my paper with a footnote to reflect the new development, which is probably all I'll do for now, since a new decision is unlikely to issue before publication.